FAIRMONT - Thomas O'Neil convinced any doubting Thomases that he's as good as advertised or maybe even better.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior quarterback amassed an incredible 507 yards of total offense and five touchdowns to power the Class 4A, No. 9-ranked Waseca Bluejays to a 43-27 triumph over the Fairmont Cardinals during South Central Conference football action Friday night in Fairmont.
"No. 3 is the real deal. He's one heckuva football player," Fairmont head coach Mat Mahoney said in reference to O'Neil, who erupted for four TDs on the ground and a record-setting 309-yard rushing performance at Mahoney Field. "No one wearing a Fairmont jersey or an opposing one has ever put up a number like that before."
PERFECT TIMING — Fairmont quarterback Spencer Chirpich (2) prepares to fire a pass to tight end Jay Ruen (13) as Ruen starts to make the turn on his route against Waseca defensive back Jacob Laube (12) during South Central Conference football action Friday night at Mahoney Field in Fairmont. Waseca defensive lineman Devin Williamson (78) applies pressure to Chirpich. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
O'Neil, who also completed 10 of 17 passes for another 198 yards and one TD, demonstrated his elusive combination of speed and power by reaching the end zone on second-half gallops of 46, 44, 83 and 5 yards, respectively.
"He's definitely a special player, and he accomplished what he did tonight against an excellent football team in Fairmont," said Waseca mentor Brad Wendland.
"He just took over during third quarter," Mahoney said in reference to multi-tasking O'Neil.
Fairmont junior quarterback Spencer Chirpich, who connected on 14 of 29 passes for an impressive game-leading 265 yards, utilized his team's lethal 1-2 receiving punch of split ends Josh Eversman and Luke Becker to keep the score even at 14-all by halftime.
After Cardinal linebacker Tim Tow sacked O'Neil for a rare 6-yard loss to eventually force a punt during the Bluejays' initial possession, Becker delivered an extra special special-teams play to put Fairmont in business at the Waseca 17.
The fleet-footed Becker slashed and dashed his way 65 yards on a punt return before capping the four-play scoring drive by catching Chirpich's toss to the left pylon from 13 yards out. Kolin Kelly's PAT kick staked the home team to an early 7-0 lead with 4:08 left in the opening quarter.
Despite Luke Peterson's recovery of the ensuing fumbled kickoff in Bluejay territory, 6-4, 285-pound defensive lineman Devin Williamson's 10-yard sack helped Waseca deny Fairmont any points out of the possession.
Despite a penalty on the ensuing punt, O'Neil and the Bluejays assembled a 12-play, 86-yard march downfield. O'Neil threaded spirals to wideout Jacob Laube for 15 and 13 yards before hitting favorite target Lucas Johnson for a 23-yarder to reach the Fairmont 20.
O'Neil's 10-run scramble helped set up his 5-yard scoring pitch to running back Brady Bomsta before the 2-point run failed to leave Waseca trailing by 1.
Running back Derek Edman's 24-yard rumble and Chirpich's back-to-back sideline routes to Eversman answered quickly during the following series. Eversman grabbed a 36-yard toss from Chirpich to reach the Waseca 18 before the two executed the same pass play to hit paydirt. Kelly's PAT kick put the Cardinals up 14-6 with 8:25 left in the second quarter.
O'Neil later delivered an incredible tackle-evading run for 11 yards to convert a key third-and-7 situation during the Bluejays' ensuing possession.
O'Neil hooked up with Lucas Johnson on a 30-yard sideline strike only two snaps later before firing a 2-point pass to tight end Tyler Kolander to knot the game at 14-all with 4:26 left before intermission.
"Our guys weren't as big as Waseca, but we went nose-to-nose with them," said Mahoney.
Unfortunately, a late-hit infraction on Fairmont during Waseca's third quarter-opening kickoff return set up the visitors at Fairmont's 46. After misfiring on back-to-back 30-yard routes, O'Neil kept the football, followed center Jordan Altman up the middle, cut left and left a 46-yard vapor trail. Jack Waletich denied O'Neil's 2-point conversion pass to keep the game at 20-14 with 11:32 left in the third.
Becker later halted the Bluejays' second march via an interception, but Kolander sacked Chirpich in the end zone on the first play from scrimmage for a safety.
Once again, O'Neil cleared the line of scrimmage before accelerating long distance - 44 yards - to cap Waseca's possession following Fairmont's free kick. O'Neil spotted Johnson for a 2-point pass for a 30-14 edge with 2:39 left in the third.
Fairmont answered as Chirpich zipped a 48-yard completion to Becker to reach the Waseca 2 before Edman crossed the goal line from 1 yard out.
Linebacker Joe Weber delivered a quarterback sack to help Fairmont regain possession one series later before Chirpich went to the air early and often.
Chirpich drilled a 17-yarder to Becker, a 14-yard strike to Weber, a 33-yarder spiral to Becker, a 24-yard touch pass to Eversman and a 22-yard scoring post pattern to tight end Jay Ruen. Kelly's PAT kick cut the Cardinals' gap to 30-27 with 4:31 left in regulation.
It took O'Neil, however, only 19 seconds and one snap to cover 83 yards on a sprint down the visitors' sideline to swing the momentum and nine-point lead back to Waseca.
Defensive lineman Isaiah Williamson's late interception set up O'Neil's final TD of the game - a 5-yard end-around run.
Becker caught five passes for 128 yards and one TD, while Eversman made five receptions for 97 yards and a score.
Lucas Johnson topped all receivers by garnering six spirals for 154 yards and one TD for Waseca.
Fairmont (2-2, 0-1 SCC) travels to St. Peter next Friday night for a 7 p.m. conference clash, while Class 4A, No. 9-ranked Waseca (4-0, 2-0) plays host to Class 3A, No. 1-ranked Blue Earth Area at 7 p.m. next Friday night.
WAS 0 14 16 13 - 43
FMT 7 7 0 13 - 27
F - Luke Becker 13 pass from Spencer Chirpich (Kolin Kelly kick), 4:08.
W - Brady Bomsta 5 run (run failed), 10:22.
F - Josh Eversman 18 pass from Chirpich (Kelly kick), 8:25.
W - Lucas Johnson 30 pass from Thomas O'Neil (Tyler Kolander pass from O'Neil), 4:26.
W - O'Neil 46 run (pass failed), 11:32.
W - Kolander safety on sack in end zone, 4:12.
W - O'Neil 44 run (L. Johnson pass from O'Neil), 2:39.
F - Derek Edman 1 run (pass failed), 11:57.
F - Jay Ruen 22 pass from Chirpich (Kelly kick), 4:31.
W - O'Neil 83 run (run failed), 4:12.
W - O'Neil 4 run (Dylan Hermanstorfer kick), 2:17.
First downs: FHS 14; Waseca 15. Rushing: FHS 32-96; Waseca 41-372. Passing: FHS 14-29-1-265; Waseca 10-17-1-198. Fumbles-lost: FHS 3-1; Waseca 3-1. Penalties: FHS 5-49; Waseca 8-68.
Offense: Rushing: O'Neil (W) 26-309; Edman (F) 17-67. Passing: Chirpich (F) 14-29-1-265; O'Neil (W) 10-17-1-198. Receiving: L. Johnson (W) 6-154; Becker (F) 5-128, Eversman (F) 5-97.
Defense: Interceptions: Becker (F), Isaiah Williamson (W). Fumble recoveries: Luke Peterson (F), Jacob Laube (W).